|Feature Article - February 2021|
|by Do-While Jones|
Darwin’s Other Book Tried to Address the Problem of Sex.
Traditionally, the feature article of our February newsletter is devoted to love or sex, partly because it’s Valentine’s Day—but mostly because love and sex are the two most difficult things for the theory of evolution to explain. Unselfish actions violate the law of the jungle, which is the driving force behind evolution. There is no doubt that the genetic recombination that comes from sexual reproduction is good; but how sexual reproduction evolved defies all logic. The fact that it is often hard to find a sexual partner is the reason why there is a lucrative market for dating apps. How do flowers and animals do it without the Internet?
We have talked about specific problems evolutionists have with the evolution of sex in past newsletters, so we invite you to look at some of our past February newsletters 1 for a variety of discussions as to why sex is hard for evolutionists to explain.
Darwin’s other best-seller is The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, which was first published in 1871. The second edition came out in 1882, and can be read for free on-line. 2 Jeremy DeSilva recently published a collection of essays about The Descent of Man titled, A Most Interesting Problem; and Eriika Milam wrote a review of DeSilva’s book. Our plan was to examine Milam’s review before giving our own review of A Most Interesting Problem, and finish up with a review of The Descent of Man—but things do not always go as planned.
It immediately became clear from DeSilva’s book that few, if any, evolutionists believe much of what Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man. Therefore, it would be unfair to criticize Darwin’s book. Evolutionists could justifiably complain that we were refuting foolish arguments they no longer believe. We won’t do that.
Surprisingly, as we read A Most Interesting Problem, it took us down a path we didn’t intend upon taking. In the two chapters about sex, sex became the springboard for other topics. Rather than force our own narrative, we happily followed the path that was laid out for us.
To mark the 150th anniversary of The Descent of Man, paleoanthropologist Jeremy DeSilva has gathered a team of experts, mostly scientists, to pen reflections and update Darwin’s analysis: one essay each on The Descent of Man’s introduction and its seven chapters about human evolution, one summarizing the eleven chapters Darwin devoted to sexual selection, one on sexual selection in humans, and a conclusion. The essays in A Most Interesting Problem collectively present an image of Darwin as both “remarkably prophetic” with regard to some predictions and “flat out wrong” with others. 3
Milam excused Darwin’s many errors by saying,
As several authors point out, scientists now have far better evidence to work with than Darwin did, including thousands of fossilized hominin specimens spanning the past 7 million years, as well as robust genetic analyses of contemporary and historic populations. Darwin made the case for human evolution without any of this information, relying instead on comparative data from skeletons, embryos, brains, and behavior.
He concluded that the major factors defining humanity—large brains, complex moral codes, culture, and an appreciation for beauty—exist in other primates too, although to a lesser extent. The differences between humans and other primates were thus a matter of degree, not of kind. This reasoned assertion of Darwin’s proved correct. So, too, did his intuition that human evolution had taken place largely in Africa. 4
The “thousands of fossilized hominin specimens” are mostly tiny bone fragments and isolated teeth which are presumed to be from speculative human ancestors. There are just a few skulls which have not been shattered beyond all recognition, and even fewer partial skeletons (Lucy and Turkana Boy). There really isn’t much fossil evidence of any importance.
The “Out of Africa” theory certainly has not been “proved correct,” and is controversial among evolutionists, as is clear from the essays in An Interesting Problem.
Unsurprisingly, the most controversial of Darwin’s claims, in his time and ours, regard race and sex. It is in the essays on racialized differences and sexual selection in humans—written by Agustín Fuentes and Holly Dunsworth, respectively—that his ideas come under direct fire. Fuentes calls out Darwin’s “ethnocenetric, Eurocentric, and anti-African biases.” Dunsworth suggests that for Darwin, “women were wives, but men were so much more than husbands.” 5
The chapter by Fuentes is all about race, not sex. The chapters by Michael J. Ryan and Holly Dunsworth are the ones we will examine this month because they deal with sex. We reserve the right to address the other chapters in future newsletters. The chapters about sex by Ryan and Dunsworth strayed into other territory of great importance, which we can’t resist addressing.
Chapter 8, written by Michael J. Ryan, is titled, “Resolving the Problem of Sexual Beauty.” It begins with a quote from Darwin.
The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick! CHARLES DARWIN, LETTER TO ASA GRAY, 1860 6
The reason it made Darwin sick was because it did not fit with his notion of survival of the fittest.
In 1860, Darwin was well recognized for explaining how organisms’ adaptations evolved for survival. But when he gazed at the peacock’s tail, it stared back at him as a stark challenge to this theory of natural selection. It was obvious, at least to Darwin, if not to Wallace, that the peacock’s tail was not an adaptation for survival, more likely hindering survival than promoting it. As the male is signaling his presence to potential mates, he is also being eyed as a potential meal by a variety of predators from tigers to mongooses. His tail makes him more attractive as a mate but more conspicuous as a meal. If the peacock’s tail was a single aberrant glitch in the workings of natural selection it might not have been such a focus of Darwin’s consternation. Darwin acknowledged, however, that these types of traits, those that seem maladaptive for survival, are ubiquitous in the animal kingdom. Long tails, bright colors, elegant courtship dances, and elaborate vocalizations all seem to invite death, not to circumvent it. How could this be explained? 7
The explanation that Darwin proposed was that sexual selection sometimes wins the battle with natural selection.
It was not difficult to resolve the conflict between natural selection and sexual selection. Traits evolve only if they are passed on to the next generation through mating, but animals can mate only if they survive. Thus, a male peacock with an abnormally short tail might survive quite well but never mate, while a male with an abnormally long tail might be quite attractive to females but likely would not live long enough to try out his tail. Thus, in many cases, there is a conflict between natural selection and sexual selection, and the traits that evolve strike some balance between survivorship and mating success. 8
The conflict was resolved based on what “might” be—not what is scientifically proven.
Ryan also addressed another alleged problem.
Why is it typically the males that have to compete for females and not vice versa?
The answer is as fundamental as can be imagined. Many of the differences between males and females, in almost all the species known to reproduce sexually, result from differences in gamete size. In humans and in most other animals, a female’s eggs are the largest cells in her body, while a male’s sperm are the smallest cells in his body. Females invest much more in their gametes than do males, even though males produce many more gametes. In humans, females have a few hundred eggs, while a male will produce a few billion sperm during his life. 9
The notion that males have to compete for females, and not vice versa, is not universally accepted. In fact, both Ryan and Dunsworth questioned it in their essays. You could probably name several women you know who pursued a man
Ryan gave a “fundamental” answer to a question which might not be an accurate description of reality. He claimed males pursue females because sperms are smaller than eggs. When romantically interested in someone of the opposite sex, has the relative size of eggs and sperms motivated you in any way? I didn’t think so.
Maybe you and I aren’t motivated by gamete size because we aren’t lice. Lice, clearly are motivated by gamete size, according to Ryan.
Sperm Sucking Lice
We aren’t even going to try to make sense of that. Just accept the fact that female lice evolved the desire, and the biological equipment, to suck sperm out of male lice.
It is possible for one man and nine women to produce nine babies in nine months; but one woman and nine men can’t produce nine babies in nine months.
This simple fact has caused many evolutionary biologists to question why males even exist, a conundrum referred to as the “cost of males.” If females reproduced clonally, with no genetic input from males, all of their offspring, all of which would be daughters, would bear offspring. If females in a similar population reproduced sexually, only half of their offspring would be female, only their daughters but not their sons would bear offspring, and the sexual population would grow at a much slower rate than the asexual population. The short answer explaining the existence of males is that sexual reproduction provides a means for creating genetic variation among offspring, even though it slows the rate of population growth. 11
That explains why sex is good—but not how sex originated.
Men are keenly aware that (except in the case of forcible rape) it is always the woman who decides with whom she mates. The chosen male might not be her first choice—but it is always her choice.
There were two main criticisms of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection by female choice. The first cited the lack of compelling evidence that females choose mates. The second criticism was that even if it were to occur, Darwin could not explain why females have these preferences. 12
As they say, “There is no accounting for taste.” What is true for food is also true when it comes to beauty. Why do people find other people attractive? Why is not the voting for Miss America always unanimous?
Similarly, the túngara frog has evolved additional syllables, called chucks, to adorn its basic mating call, a whine, which stimulate an inner ear organ that had yet to be recruited for use, in communication among close relatives. This added stimulation of the ear has two results: it leads to enhanced stimulation of the auditory centers in the brain, and female túngara frogs find whines with chucks more attractive than a simple whine. Sensory biases are key components of the aesthetic preferences of females. 13
The fact that a frog has chucks does not prove that it evolved from a frog that did not have chucks. You would need to compare old recordings of frogs mating with new recordings to prove that. Furthermore, it does not explain why the female frogs find the chucks more attractive (if, in fact, they really do).
Ryan’s summary is,
It is an admission that traits like ostentatious peacock feathers are detrimental for survival, so natural selection should eliminate them—but it didn’t. There is no explanation why, in many cases, courtship rituals are unusually elaborate.
Holly Dunsworth wrote Chapter 9, “This View of Wife,” with the clearly feminist bias that women are, and should be, in control of sex.
Darwin … suggested that female animals have a “taste for the beautiful,” that they possess sexual aesthetics not all that different from ours. His theory lay dormant for 100 years and was resurrected in the 1970s, primarily by Trivers’s theory of parental investment. Since then, there have been hundreds of studies to demonstrate clearly the efficacy of female mate choice, thus validating Darwin’s primary prediction about sexual selection. Disagreements still exist as to what causes the evolution of female mate choice, echoing the fundamental disagreement between Darwin and Wallace. 15
Do you think it was just a coincidence that this view emerged at the same time as the feminist political movement did? Could science have been used to advance a political agenda? Dunsworth thinks so.
Sociobiology’s rise in the 1970s perpetuated old, and inspired new, captivating but biased (and worse) stories about human evolution and “human nature” that continue to grip popular culture. 16
In the Darwinian context, Western notions of masculinity and patriarchy are justified because gendered behavior is deemed the driving force of evolution—a process that Darwin valued as progress and improvement, and our culture still does. 17
… to Darwin white men were superior and, therefore, men were the most evolved humans, which in turn increased white male superiority because he valued “higher” states of evolution (which are fictions). 18
In other words, Darwin and his theory are to blame for toxic masculinity and white supremacy. Here is where Dunsworth took a hard left turn.
Science is the human creation of knowledge. Prizing the completely objective scientific mind is foolish because such a mind does not exist. This myth is dangerous because it creates opportunity for scientists to exploit humanity. It is also detrimental to science because it prizes those perspectives judged to be objective over others, excluding so many from knowledge production, while elevating the “objective” perspective to fact. As biological anthropologist Robin Nelson writes, “The idealization of an objective and apolitical science built on rational thought and deliberation has a face, and that face is white and male.” An uncritical belief in scientific objectivity does not just continue to dominate the profession, it influences the public perception of what counts as science and what is valued. Too often when these issues are raised, critics, who may even be scientists themselves, are labeled “anti-science” or “science deniers” or considered to be too politically motivated to be taken seriously as scientists. Just going in nontraditional scientific directions in a nontraditional body can result in a person’s rejection from science. On these issues, indigenous-studies scholar Kim Tallbear writes, “Being differently situated is advantageous for producing different insights but has its risks. When one fails to exemplify a white Western often straight and masculinist gaze that is ironically seen to embody ‘objectivity,’ or if one researches too close to home, one gets accused of bias.” The persistent myth of an unblemished science is what tricks us into believing that Darwin’s ideas, like his harmful beliefs about women, can be challenged only with science and, ironically, by those scientists deemed to be objective about such issues: men. 19
We agree with many of her observations—but disagree with her interpretations of those observations and her conclusions based on her interpretations. Let’s look at them individually.
Real science is objective and unbiased. A Republican scientist analyzing an electronic circuit will come to the same conclusion that a Democrat scientist will. Ohm’s law is not a matter of opinion—it is an unquestionable scientific fact. It has been proved countless times in the laboratory, and in every consumer electronic product sold.
The theory of evolution is not scientific, not objective, and not unbiased. It is biased towards particular political and religious beliefs.
Politicians exploit false science to advance their political agenda. You can’t argue with their policy because you can’t argue with science (or, more accurately, dogma pretending to be science). That leads directly to the next topic.
Censorship “excludes so many from knowledge production.” For years, evolutionists have gone to court to prevent any criticism of evolution in the public schools. Since Democrats recently gained total control of the United States government, they have openly called for “deprogramming” of conservatives, and prohibiting freedom of speech on the Internet. Censoring criticism of the theory of evolution was the tip of the spear. Now the rest of the spear follows through the open wound.
Affirmative action is based on the liberals’ racist and sexist beliefs that minorities and women can’t compete with white males on a level playing field. Therefore, liberals believe white males must be artificially handicapped to make it fair for the inferior races and sex. Liberals believe this because they believe the racist/sexist theory of evolution.
People who don’t agree with the elites (posing as scientists) are smeared as anti-science science-deniers, and expelled from the intellectual power structure.
Just after its publication, readers interpreted Descent of Man as a call to action to contribute to the evolutionary process by aiding selection’s improvement of our species. Where there was once God’s plan that we must carry out, now there was selection’s. Talk about stringing the same data together with two different narratives. From this view, cutting-edge science justified limiting the freedom of all but upper-class white men. Women evolved to be wives (and not scientists or scholars) and to carry out evolution’s plan. Natural and sexual selection conveniently favored what society already did. The scientific value of Descent is impossible to untangle from the oppression that it inspired. 20
Now, COVID-19 is being used as the “science” to limit freedom of all but Democrat politicians.
Perhaps more than any other science, evolutionary science is a “collection of stories about facts.” These stories are difficult to separate from the facts and, indeed, become the facts without as much burden of proof placed on them as some facts. For example, men are on average larger than women (fact) because of large, winning male ancestors (fiction—i.e., hypothesis or possible explanation—which is far more difficult to establish as fact). 21
The facts are often true—but the conclusions often aren’t. You should be careful to recognize when conclusions are just stories that someone in power needs in order to advance a political agenda.
Real sciences (math, physics, chemistry, electronics, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, et cetera) determine the truth without regard to opinions and prejudice. The theory of evolution isn’t real science. The theory of evolution is a philosophical conjecture which functions as the creation myth of atheism. Facts have been massaged and contorted to support the “logical” conclusions. That’s why Darwin’s claims about race and sex are controversial, but Newton’s laws of motion are not.
Opinions change—scientific facts don’t. That’s why evolutionists’ views about sex have changed since Darwin wrote The Descent of Man. They are just opinions which reflect society’s views and values.
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3 Erika Lorraine Milam, 18 January, 2021, “An anniversary appraisal of The Descent of Man probes Darwin’s prescience and prejudices”, https://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/2021/01/18/a-most-interesting-problem/
6 A Most Interesting Problem (p. 162). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
7 ibid. (p. 166)
8 ibid. (p. 167)
9 ibid. (p. 167)
10 ibid. (p. 167-168)
11 ibid. (p. 168)
12 ibid. (p. 172)
13 ibid. (p. 178)
14 ibid. (p. 181)
15 ibid. (p. 181-182)
16 ibid. (p. 194)
17 ibid. (p. 191)
18 ibid. (p. 194)
19 ibid. (p. 194-195)
20 ibid. (p. 199)
21 ibid. (p. 199)